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September 23, 2011

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114 service a wrong number?

A MAJOR telephone inquiry service that has previously enjoyed a good reputation may not be that reliable after all, customers have complained to Shanghai's consumer rights authorities.

Electric appliance repair companies recommended by 114, China's main inquiry line, turned out not to be members of a professional association, it has been claimed.

The inquiry service said it always recommended repair companies who were members of the Shanghai Household Electric Appliance Professional Association but it turned out that some firms had faked their membership certificates, consumer rights authorities said.

A customer surnamed Yu told the city's consumer rights officials that he wanted the phone number of Haier's repair site in Shanghai and called 114. He later called the number he was given and a worker purporting to be from Haier called three times but couldn't fix his fridge.

Yu later found out the company was a fake one using the genuine company's name.

Another of the companies recommended by 114 claimed to be the Zhongliang Household Electric Appliance Repairing Co Ltd. The association, however, said the real Zhongliang had never registered its number at 114.

Fee for priority

A 114 operator told Shanghai Daily yesterday that companies paying more money could gain priority in recommendations. A company needed to provide a business license and association membership certificate but the operator wouldn't say what steps were taken to ensure the documents were genuine. Insiders said a "priority fee" was more than 10,000 yuan (US$1,566) a year.

Shanghai industrial and commercial authorities said it was hard for them to regulate the service because they could only monitor the companies 114 recommended, but not the service itself. Meanwhile, telecom service authorities said they were only responsible for the quality of the service, such as the attitude of the operators for example.

China Telecom runs 114 in southern China, while China Unicom handles northern China. Yesterday, China Telecom said they were aware of the complaints but had, so far, not taken any action.

Gu Jun, a professor with Shanghai Normal University, said the inquiry service should be more "social welfare" oriented because it was a public service.

"Consumers would never think that such service is bound by profits," he said. "And consumers are not able to protect themselves as they don't sign a contract with 114."


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